A Call For Contemplation

I’m writing this the night before Christmas Eve. It’s 3:38 in the morning, and I can’t sleep. I can’t sleep because I have a lot on my mind. Most of it is between me and the echoes in my head, but this thought… This thought I’ll share with you.

The Holiday Season, that being Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve, can be a very stressful time of the year on people. Each individual holiday brings its own set of challenges. Christmas, however, is a holiday that brings stress for everyone it seems. And I’ve noticed it this year more than most.

I’ve listened to a lot of people, both men and women, complain about having to go Christmas shopping. Christmas shopping for the kids, for the husband or wife, the fiancé, the boyfriend or girlfriend, you name it, people are complaining. I have to confess, I’ve not been the jolliest person this Christmas season. In fact I think I’ve muttered more “bah humbugs” than “Merry Christmases,” but I’ve kept the humbugs low and for my ears only, because there are people out there that are genuinely enjoying this Christmas season.

With that in mind, I plaster a smile on my face and keep my brooding self hidden away. Who wants to be a rain cloud in the Christmas season? It’s taken a lot of effort, and I’ve done a pretty decent job. It doesn’t help, however, when other people complain about having to shop for someone else in their life.

I sit across from a guy at work who is married and has a little girl. He’s not much older than me. He has a new house, good career, and from what I’ve heard of his wife, it sounds like he got a real catch. She even reminds me of someone I used to know, which makes me more than a little jealous. And his little girl is adorable; I’ve seen her picture. All in all, I admit, I’m envious of him. Everything I’ve wanted since I was 13, he has.

Yet all he can do is complain about buying his wife and daughter gifts. “It’s so expensive,” “her tastes are weird,” “my kid is getting more for Christmas than I am!” Seriously, he’s been a real whiner.

He’s not the only one, either. Other co-workers complain just as bad. Some of them are married; others are just in dating relationships. People I listen to at my chosen Starbucks. I hear people in stores, people at gas stations; all these people complaining about having to buy gifts for someone in their life.

This is my fourth Christmas season single since I lost my first love. I have my family, my parents, mostly, and that’s it. No wife. No kid. No girlfriend or fiancé. It’s been this way for four years. Four years is a long time, but I remember what it was like to have someone to seek out gifts for, and to know she was doing the same for me.

After recently taking these observations to my family, I asked if I ever complained about buying for the last girl I had in my life at Christmas. The answer was no, I didn’t. I was almost terrifyingly chipper.

I love getting gifts for the people in my life. I love the challenge of getting them something that shows I was paying attention to their hints, or that I know who they are and what they like and I came up with a gift specifically for them based on my knowledge of who they are. In the past 6 years, though, my list of people to do this for has dwindled. My grandparents passed away in 2008 and 2009. I lost my first love in 2011. And that’s left me with just my parents to shop for.

I’m not complaining. I love my family. They’ve stood behind me when I deserved it the least, they’ve supported me when I made crazy choices, like abandoning an IT career for a shot at becoming a pilot. We’re not a perfect family, but we’re united at the end of the day. A lot of people don’t have that, and I am thankful I do. No matter how many people mock it, or think it’s weird, I am grateful for it.

However, once you’ve had someone else in your life to think about for the holidays and you lose him or her, there’s a hole there. A gap, that for some reason, you can’t fill. Like a special part you got used to having in your heart has been removed, and all that’s left are the wires that connected that part to the rest of you.

It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there thinking of you specifically during the holiday season, and Christmas specifically. All three holidays of the season are geared for family, relationships, love and kindness. Having someone in your life that doesn’t have to love you but chooses to love you is a great feeling. If you’ve had it and lost it, though, this time of year makes you ache. Makes you… humbug more than merry.

I’m in something of a unique position. Don’t mistake that for it being a desirable position, it’s just unique. I know what it’s like to have not had someone like that in your life come Christmas, I know what it’s like TO have that person in your life, and I know what it’s like to NO LONGER have that person in your life. Armed with this knowledge, I just have to ask…

Why do these people complain? To the guy I work with, I really want to just ask him, “Dude, why are you complaining? It’s a short list of things I’d give up to have what you do.”

There are worse things to be than simply single on Christmas, I admit. Homeless, flat broke, disabled, in the hospital fighting cancer. Being single is a walk in the park compared to these problems. And I am grateful for the good things I have. A family that always has my back, a fairly decent job, a reliable car that I love, good health (I think, anyway…), a pilot’s license, people from around the world liking my photographs. I have a lot to thank God for, which is why I have done my best to NOT post anything like this. I don’t want to whine because as much as I hate being single, and as lonely as I feel, it could be so much worse.

But when I hear these people complain about the fact they need to buy something for that special someone, it chips away piece by piece at my will power to not just complain about what I don’t have. Until we come to where we are now, this incredibly long status update/blog post no one is going to pay attention to.

We buy gifts for people as a sort of symbolism. It shows our love for that person, in a similar way to God showing His love for us by sending His Son down here to live with us, and die for us. Some of the people that complain probably don’t get that, or they don’t/don’t want to see it. Okay, I understand that. If you’re not a Christian, that won’t make much sense to you. So here’s what I’m going to do.

For my secular friends, buying someone a Christmas gift shows them how much you love them, know them and pay attention to them. It’s an opportunity for you to make them feel a bit more loved and a bit more appreciated. Keep in mind; they’re doing the same for you. So instead of complaining about how expensive this person is, or how difficult this person is to shop for, try this little experiment. Put some effort into this. Close your eyes and imagine that this person is gone from your life. Husband, wife, child, fiancé, boyfriend/girlfriend, doesn’t matter. Remove them from your life. Completely. And imagine how different you’d be feeling right now this Christmas. And also recognize, that there are people dealing with far worse issues than simply being single or not having the kids they hoped for just yet.

For my Christian friends, apply the previous paragraph, but add this. God sent his Son, Jesus, down here for us, as the ultimate gift. His son died for you and me. I will admit to not having read the Bible in its entirety, but I still don’t think you’ll ever see a mention of how expensive we were to get a gift for, and I’m also pretty sure that sending an only son to die is a more painful gift to give than that really pretty scarf your girl has been swooning over on Pinterest, or that shiny new set of golf clubs your man keeps trying out every time you go near that sporting goods store. For us Christians, our giving of gifts is a reflection of God giving us the ultimate gift.

So for both groups, I think before you start complaining about how hard it was to find this one item, or how expensive this item cost, or how you had to struggle to shop through a mall for someone else, remember these things.

One. If you’re shopping for a significant other and you’re complaining like this, please realize that there are people out there that don’t have a significant other, and if they could, would give nearly everything they could to have one of their own.

Two. Shopping for someone is hard, but at least you do not have to choose between Christmas gifts or the power bill. At least everyone in your house is healthy, and safe. There’s a roof over their head and food on their table. Yes, shopping for someone is very hard sometimes, but you should focus on being thankful for what you have, and not gripe about it. Others have it worse than you and I.

That’s all, I guess. Please just think before you gripe. Sure, your life is no cakewalk. Little kids are a hassle and families get crazy. Husbands and wives can try our patience. Boyfriends/girlfriends can really complicate things. If you’re lucky enough to have someone like that in your life, though, cherish it. Shop with a spring in your step, because there’s at least one person out there (yes, me. There are others, but you’re here, so it’s me) that doesn’t have what you have. And both you and I have far more than what other people may have.

And remember Christian readers; it’s not just about the gifts. It’s a time for reflection on our faith, and how Christ has changed our lives and continues to do so.

Now, stop your complaining, (Please. I’m working really hard on being joyful and you’re not helping when you complain) and have a Merry Christmas. And get ready for a (hopefully) Happy New Year!

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